Created on Thursday, 26 April 2012 14:44
Written by Luke Hiken
INVITATION TO A COURT HEARING MAY 14TH
by Progressive Avenues
May 14th, in San Francisco, CA, Federal Judge James Ware, will render
his decision in the FOIA case of plaintiffs Marguerite Hiken and
National Lawyers Guild Military Law Task Force vs. Department of Defense
and CENTCOM, defendants.
Hearing Date: May 14, 2012
Time: 9:00 a.m.
U.S. District Court, Northern District of California,
450 Golden Gate Ave # 36060, San Francisco, CA 94102
Courtroom 9, 19th floor
Judge: Hon. James Ware, Chief Judge
Department of Justice and CENTCOM released over 800 pages of
information concerning the incident involving Giuliana Sgrena and the
destruction of Fallujah. Most the information concerned the
Sgrena incident; although, to date, we have come up with nothing new
from what information CENTCOM released to us.
Based on "National
Security" and "State Secrets," nothing was turned over concerning the
reasons for the destruction of Fallujah and the slaughter of innocent
civilians. The DOD made it very clear that the information, including
the ROE, regulations, documents, etc., that all might shed light on the
massacre, will be used again in the future and therefore would aid the
enemy in current and future wars and thereby harm the U.S.
questions remain: If the U.S. military has free reign to destroy an
entire city and not be forced to release the reasons why to the American
people, then why couldn't they do the same thing tomorrow to the cities
of Teheran or Cairo, or Paris?
Where and how does the military get off
destroying cities throughout the world?
This isn't a question of
national security, it is the very essence of what FOIA was about. If
"national security" and "We can't tell you because we're going to do it
again" are legitimate excuses from complying with FOIA, then there
are no protections against the raw imperialist actions of this military.
What were the rules and regulations for U.S. soldiers in Fallujah?
did these regulations and ROE lead to the destruction of Fallujah?
March 17, 2005, over seven years ago, plaintiffs submitted a Freedom of
Information Act request to defendant Department of Defense seeking the
(1) Any and all Rules of Engagement (whether called
so, or by any other name) in effect for military personnel who, on March
4, 2005, fired upon, or ordered the firing upon, the car carrying
Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena while she was en route to the
Baghdad, Iraq airport;
(2) Any other documents bearing on any
purported justification for the actions taken by the military, or any
personnel, in firing on Ms. Sgrena’s car on March 4, 2005;
Any and all Rules of Engagement (whether called so, or by any other
name) in effect for military personnel engaged in Fallujah, Iraq from
March through December, 2004; and,
(4) Any and all documents
(guidelines, directives, trainings, rules, orders, etc.) which relate
to, touch upon, or concern the judgments of U.S. military personnel in
Iraq in distinguishing between civilians and combatants, including
without limitation such decision-making in Fallujah and along the road
to the Baghdad Airport in Iraq.
March 4, 2005, soldiers from the Multinational Corps-Iraq (“MNC-I”)
opened fire on the car carrying Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena as
she was being transported to the Baghdad airport shortly after being
released from her kidnappers after exactly one month of sequestration.
The soldiers’ gunfire killed Nicola Calipari, an Italian agent riding in
the car who died protecting Ms. Sgrena from U.S. gunfire, and injured
Ms. Sgrena, who took a bullet to the shoulder, and Andrea Carpani, Ms.
Sgrena’s driver. This incident gave rise to allegations of wrongdoing by
the soldiers who fired on the car and by the U.S. military and strained
relations between the United States and Italy. It has also prompted
critique of the Rules of Engagement (“ROE”) under which the soldiers
were acting and inquiry into how the military distinguishes between
civilians and combatants on the roads in Iraq. The US Military cleared
those soldiers involved in the shooting of any wrongdoing, stating that
they were acting within the Rules of Engagement.
Destruction of Fallujah
Ms. Sgrena was one of the only unembedded, independent
Western journalists in Fallujah during the U.S. military-led siege on
that city in April 2004. The siege was orchestrated in
retaliation against the people of Fallujah for the killing of four
American paramilitary contractors. The four brutally slain men were not
U.S. soldiers, but “elite commandos,” employed by Blackwater USA,
a highly controversial and discredited private security firm, to guard
employees of U.S. corporations.
U.S. military personnel
taking part in the siege were criticized for targeting and killing
civilians; blocking access to hospitals; intentionally firing on
ambulances; and using chemical weapons against the civilian population,
including white phosphorus. No one knows the number of those who died
because the devastation of the city was so great.
According to a report published on GlobalSecurity.org
the ROE the soldiers were given for the siege were “draconian"; the
commanders in Fallujah did not authorize the use of non-lethal
munitions. Instead, the ROE given to the soldiers focused on protecting
U.S. military forces with shoot to kill orders on the sighting of anyone
with an AK47 or Rocket Propelled Grenade outside a private home. The
number of civilian Iraqi deaths resulting from the siege is disputed;
however, on April 11, 2004, The New Standard reported that local medical
authorities said over 600 bodies had been counted at emergency medical
facilities; “a significant number of victims [were] buried without ever
receiving care at a clinic or hospital… [; and] two entire football
fields [were] converted into cemeteries.”
light of the high number of Iraqi civilians who were killed during the
siege on Fallujah, the Sgrena incident generated additional questions
about the ROE under which the soldiers were acting in Fallujah. Even
supporters of the war have harsh words about the ROE, saying “[t]he
current ROE are ‘questionable.’ A Marine officer caught up in the bloody
fight to clear Fallujah was much harsher in his assessment: ‘Blood,’ he
observed, ‘is on someone’s hands.’” The high civilian death toll in
Fallujah prompted further questions about the use of chemical weapons
against civilians and how the military distinguished between civilians
and combatants during the siege. Clearly, no rational, legal ROE
could ever authorize such a wholesale slaughter of civilians and
destruction of an entire city.
In response to the military’s
actions in the Sgrena incident and in Fallujah, on March 17, 2005, the
Military Law Task Force of the National Lawyers Guild and Marguerite
Hiken submitted a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request to the
Department of Defense requesting the ROE and other documents for the
soldiers involved in the shooting at Sgrena’s car and the soldiers
involved in the siege of Fallujah. In response, throughout the
administrative process and throughout this litigation, defendants have
been dismissive of their statutory obligations under the Freedom of
They have furthermore been cavalier about both
the FOIA’s presumption of disclosure and their burden – not the public’s
– to substantiate their withholding of responsive records. The
documents ultimately disclosed by defendants evince, clearly, that the
government has no intention of sincerely responding to plaintiffs’
request and seeks to hide information that would shed light on war
crimes and bloodbath in Fallujah. As Judge Patel has previously done,
the Court should take the government to task for its dismal compliance
with the FOIA and order the release of information the government seeks
to keep from the American public; the Department of Defense and U.S.
Central Command should not be allowed to hide behind the “trust us”
rhetoric of “national security” to justify its withholding of documents
that shed light on our military’s illegal and immoral conduct in the war
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Attorney at Law
3435 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 2900
Los Angeles, CA 90010